Film Review: From Up on Poppy Hill (2011)

From Up on Poppy Hill (2011) – IMDb

6 wins & 11 nominations. See more awards ” A group of Yokohama teens look to save their school’s clubhouse from the wrecking ball in preparations for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Trivia The song playing when Umi and Shun are going down the hill on the bike and when Umi gets on the electric train later in the movie is a song from the movie “Sayonara”, released in 1957.

From Up on Poppy Hill

(From Up on Poppy Hill Japanese: コクリコ坂から, Hepburn: Kokuriko-zaka Kara, “From Coquelicot Hill”) is a 2011 Japanese animated drama film directed by Gorō Miyazaki, scripted by Hayao Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa, animated by Studio Ghibli for the Nippon Television Network, Dentsu, Hakuhodo DY Media Partners, Walt Disney Japan, Mitsubishi, and Toho, and distributed by the latter company.



From Up on Poppy Hill (2011)

Growing up we form attachments not just with people but with material things, be it a childhood toy or even a landmark, a special place that instills that feeling of nostalgia whenever we return. During my university years I would return to my hometown periodically and lament how much things have changed. I live back there now but the feelings remain. The town is currently being revamped and old architecture and other scenes are confined to history and I have to now adapt to change that is beyond my control, my memories remain but the places they were created are now gone. It is how the world works, always revolving, always moving. In Goro Miyazaki’s 2011 film, From Up on Poppy Hill we have a similar scenario of an impending transition and the desire of a determined group of individuals to prevent it.

Shun and Umi have some problems to solve

Set in Yokohama, Japan, in 1963 the film focuses primarily on sixteen year old, Umi Matsuzaki, who attends her local school, Isogo High School, and cares for her younger siblings in a boarding house while her mother, Ryoko, is away in the US studying. Umi’s daily routine involves raising a flag outside her home in honour of her late father and to pray for the safety of sailors. This act leads to an encounter at the school with fellow student, Shun Kazama, who writes a poem about the flag. The school’s numerous clubs are found in an ageing building known as Quartier Latin and it is here that Umi finds Shun works on the school newspaper. The future of this traditional building comes under threat when Tokumara, the school board chairman, announces that Quartier Latin will be demolished in preparation for the 1964 Olympics the following year. Umi and Shun must rally the other students and try to save the building but will they succeed? 

From Up on Poppy Hill centres around a main narrative thread but there are branches reaching out in other directions including a potential romance between Umi and Shun, as well as an exploration of their respective pasts, encapsulated in a photo of three men from many years before. The film has the usual charm of a Studio Ghibli effort and this was my first experience of a project by Goro Miyazaki, son of the legendary Hayao Miyazaki. Inevitably, Goro does not have the same gift as his esteemed father but there is still a lot to admire with From Up on Poppy Hill. Many elements are predictable but it’s still an entertaining journey to get there. The film’s strength is in the exploration of Umi and Shun’s past, an intriguing side narrative. In the end, there isn’t a huge amount wrong here, it just doesn’t quite have the same visceral experience as Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata’s work. It seems the younger, up and coming animators still have a lot to learn from the old masters.    


Verdict: A solid and pleasant anime from Goro Miyazaki but inevitably inferior to his great father’s work. 


My name is Dave and I live in Yorkshire in the north of England and have been here all my life. I hope you enjoy your visit to All is Ephemeral.

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